‘No silver bullet’ on small boat crossings admits Sunak

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak on Friday admitted there was “no one silver bullet” for addressing cross-Channel migration, as he prepared to discuss the issue with French president Emmanuel Macron.

Ahead of the first UK-France summit in five years, Sunak said he was “convinced we can grip the problem” of small boat crossings and said it would be addressed as both sides started “a new chapter” in their relationship.

Sunak and Macron are expected to announce new money for patrols on the French coast, while the British premier also hopes the French president will help him negotiate a returns agreement with the EU.

Speaking to reporters on the Eurostar to Paris, Sunak said he believed the deal struck with Brussels last week on the post-Brexit trading regime in Northern Ireland could bolster co-operation on migration.

“I hope that opens up other areas of constructive dialogue and co-operation with the EU,” he said.

Migration will feature prominently in the summit, but policies on Ukraine, energy security and business links will also be discussed.

British officials privately admit it will be a tough task to negotiate a returns deal with the EU, and Sunak confirmed his priority for now was to “stop the flow of illegal arrivals”.

Sunak insisted that the government’s new illegal migration bill was compatible with Britain’s commitments under the European Convention of Human Rights.

But he refused to state categorically that Britain would not withdraw from the ECHR if it stopped him implementing his plan. “I don’t think we need to get into that space,” he said.

On Ukraine, Sunak said Britain and France would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Kyiv and that there was no “softening of resolve” among western allies to support the fight against Russia.

He said that “all conflicts end at the negotiating table”, but said London and Paris were committed to giving Ukraine the support it needed to have a “decisive battlefield advantage”.

“Now is not the time for negotiations,” he said, adding that it would fall to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to decide the appropriate moment to start talks.

Referring to his supposed “bromance” with Macron, Sunak said: “I hope this can be the start of stronger relationship between us. It’s a privilege to be part of that.”


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